In some people, cholesterol levels in blood become too high. This is called high cholesterol or hyperlipidemia. High levels of LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) are considered a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
LDL cholesterol is thought to irritate the lining of blood vessels, stimulating arteriosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries.
Although lowering LDL cholesterol and raising levels of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) has traditionally been the focus, factors related to free radical damage are drawing increased attention:
- Lipoprotein A is a relative of LDL cholesterol.
- It has thought to be formed when there is free radical damage. Lipoprotein A may adhere to damaged blood vessels, eventually forming atherosclerotic plaques.
- Oxidized cholesterol is found in large amounts in fried and processed foods. Studies have found that oxidized cholesterol may increase the amount of atherosclerotic deposits on blood vessel walls.
Who Needs to Lower Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is usually treated based on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol levels, plus the presence of additional risk factors for heart disease:
- Previous heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Family history of early heart disease
- Age over 45 in men and greater than 55 in women
- 10 year risk of heart attack greater than 20%